BY Matthew Breen
May 16 2011 4:00 AM ET
I never celebrated gay pride in Salt Lake City, the place where I spent most of my formative years, the city where I came out at age 22. I’m sorry for that fact for two reasons. First, because in a conservative state like Utah, every little bit of visibility helps in the fight for equality; I wish I had been counted in a place where it really matters.
The second reason is that it would have been good for me. I knew no gays when I was growing up — apart from one or two people in high school and a few at my university, people whom I avoided out of what I now understand was fear of myself. A younger me, struggling to see myself reflected in the world, would have benefited from seeing even a small slice of the various ways we live our lives and exhibit our passions. From the Dykes on Bikes to the drag queens to the parents with kids in strollers to gay seniors, they would have helped me realize much earlier that there’s no one right way to be gay.
Now I never pass up the chance to celebrate gay pride, and I’ve done so in a number of cities and towns, large and small. There’s a fair argument against celebrating the fact of our sexual orientation — it’s a characteristic we had nothing to do with determining.
But what is now incontrovertibly clear to me is that we must be proud of the people who have come before us, of those who have fought, rallied, litigated, shouted from the rooftops, and endured terrible hardships so that we may express ourselves like no generation has before us. Cheers to them!